"Go Buy Some Rock*A*Teens Records": A.C. Newman Blogs


To celebrate the release of the New Pornographers' fifth album, Together , RS let A.C. Newman run free in the RS blog, where he's been writing about the songwriting process and artists he admires. Check out How the New Pornographers Became Black Sabbath, The Genius of Felt, All Inspiration Begins in the Bathroom, Dancing the Frug With the Unclaimed and How a Dick Tune Inspired the New Pornographer's Torch Song. For his final post, Newman explains his love for the Rock*A*Teens' "N.Y. By Helicopter" from Baby, A Little Rain Must Fall:

I can't say enough good things about Rock*A*Teens. "N.Y. By Helicopter" has a messy beauty that is completely singular. They were a four-piece rock band but they sounded like an entire junkyard outer-space orchestra, like the show-stopping number from a really heavily sedated Broadway musical. In its way, it is like classic Roy Orbison, raising the everyday into the epic, the guy watching the girl walk away, his heart glowing with a massive and beautiful sadness/defiance that envelops the universe.

On this song, I can hear a chorus of angels in the background but it is all implied. I can hear the symphony playing even though it may only be one guitar. The sound is so impressionistic, a perfect spray of vibrating strings and reverb coils.

So much music is a retread of something else, and that doesn't mean that it can't be brilliant, but Rock*A*Teens sound like nothing I have heard before. They use all the same ingredients as other bands, it is definitely rock & roll music, but suffused with this mournful sort of static electricity. When I first heard "N.Y. By Helicopter" I was floored. To me, it was the most beautiful song I had heard in years. It was surprising — so unexpected. When they get to the "600 feet, I'm coming down, 500 feet I'm coming down" chorus, there is something behind the lead vocal that sounds massive, though there may be nothing there at all. Lopez sings in that strangled sort of voice that Arcade Fire have since made famous, that some people may hate, but I can't imagine any other voice singing this song. It's all part of their perfect noise.

That a band so amazing was so ignored is still a mystery to me. I think they were one of those bands that were truly ahead of their time. At some point in the future there is going to be a new band that sounds like this and people are going to flip out. The sound is just too perfect. It can't go away. It will continue floating around in the ether, waiting to be picked up by someone. That is just what they sound like: an alien radio signal from an ancient oldies station, searching for an audience.

This is my long way of saying, "Go buy some Rock*A*Teens records."

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